Commune with nature in Tacoma

Another aquarium has a cluster of eyed coho salmon eggs. The eggs are about to hatch into tiny salmon.

Easy-to-understand displays show adults and children how the wetland is the center of a web of life that includes fish, reptiles, birds, deer, foxes, raccoons and other animals - all within a few hundred yards of a city street. Children can try on full-size animal costumes.

The center has a full slate of programs that range from avalanche awareness and nature classes for young children to science club meetings for older kids.

Outside, the Nature Center has miles of trails in the forest and along Snake Lake. Workers are repairing two bridges across the lake, so some sections of trail could be closed during the next few weeks. The trails are easy to hike, and there are great chances to see deer, raccoons, foxes and many kinds of birds. Dozens of chickadees flitted through the woods Tuesday afternoon. The little birds were looking for food under the bark of cedar, Douglas fir, maple and alder trees. After a while, you forget that you're in the middle of a city - and even the traffic noise disappears.

Outdoors reporter Chester Allen can be reached at callen@theolympian.com.